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5 Not-So-Thinly Veiled Remakes

5 Not-So-Thinly Veiled Remakes

Based on the trailer alone, the new road trip comedy “Due Date” has enough similarities to John Hughes’ sentimental 1987 hit “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” to have had the majority of the blogosphere immediately calling out its apparent unoriginality. Some critics also mentioned the rehash of certain elements from director Todd Phillips’ prior release, “The Hangover,” but it’s the classic Steve Martin and John Candy team-up that comes to mind most with this pairing of Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis as an odd couple forced to travel cross-country together, the fat guy annoying the skinny guy every step of the way. This time around, though, the paternal commitment motivating the skinny guy’s rushed arrangements is much greater than a desire to make it home for Thanksgiving dinner.

When asked about the influence, Phillips recently claimed they thought more of “Rain Man” (also referenced visually in “The Hangover”) than “Planes” or other comparative titles, such as “Midnight Run” and “Tommy Boy,” which doesn’t necessarily help his film’s case for originality so much as remind how common all road trip buddy comedies are.

I haven’t seen “Due Date” (and so far the reviews aren’t inspiring me to, either), but I stand by my belief that it’s little more than a not-so-thinly veiled redo of “Planes.” Josh Tyler’s take at Cinema Blend supports this belief, too. So I’ve been inspired to list ten other movies that came off as unofficial and slightly altered remakes that are nonetheless very clearly and often embarrassingly recycled products. I’m excluding, of course, the blatant rip-offs and anything that’s obviously meant to be taken as tribute or homage.

Remake of: “Doc Hollywood”?

15 years passed between the release of the 1991 Michael J. Fox fish-out-of-water vehicle “Doc Hollywood” and this popular Pixar feature, but moviegoers’ memory couldn’t help dismiss the parallels between the two movies, despite the latter being animated and involving characters who are anthropomorphic automobiles. The earlier movie’s plot concerns a hot shot big city doctor who winds up in a small country town, where he has done some damage to local property and is ordered to do community service, and ends up adapting to and settling down in the rural community. The later is about a hot shot racecar who winds up in a small country town, where he has done some damage to local property and is ordered to do community service, and ends up adapting to and settling down in the rural community. This wasn’t the first “coincidental” remake from Pixar, either. Previously “Monsters, Inc.” seemed to borrow much from “Little Monsters,” while “A Bug’s Life,” though more than likely merely an homage to “The Seven Samurai,” is quite reminiscent of “¡Three Amigos!,” as well.

“Tropic Thunder”
Remake of: “¡Three Amigos!”?

Another movie besides “A Bug’s Life” that owes a lot to “¡Three Amigos!” is this satirical comedy from director/co-writer Ben Stiller, which stars Stiller, RDJ and Jack Black as Hollywood actors mistaking a real conflict for a gig they’re performing in. Certainly there are some major differences, such as how in “Tropic Thunder” the guys are initially sent into the jungle as part of a legitimate film shoot, whereas the fools in “¡Three Amigos!” are victims of a complete miscommunication related to the early confusion about the reality of cinema. I’m probably in the minority, but even regardless of the newer film’s copying, I prefer the criminally underrated 1986 comedy. If only it had someone (more era-appropriately) in black face, or a hammier studio exec caricature than Joe Mantegna’s, it might get its due credit.

Remake of: “Ghostbusters”?

It isn’t uncommon for filmmakers to remake their own works, but typically the practice is more acknowledged than this sci-fi comedy from director Ivan Reitman, which is basically just a bad rehash of his own “Ghostbusters,” only with alien creatures instead of ghosts. Blame the screenwriters, maybe, but it’s odd that Reitman would choose something so similar to what he’d done before, unless it had to do with exploitation. Perhaps he felt obligated to deliver something he felt more his speed after a few critical and box office disappointments and also wished he could just do a third “Ghostbusters”? The ironic thing is that by the time “Ghostbusters 3” does finally get made, it’ll probably be an even worse bit of recycling, if not also a worse movie overall, than “Evolution.” Also worth noting as far as filmmakers unofficially remaking their own films is John Hughes’ obvious and immediate rewriting of “Pretty in Pink” as “Some Kind of Wonderful” (guess he therefore kinda deserves the “Due Date” situation, eh?).

Remake of: “Dances with Wolves”?

When the first “Avatar” trailer debuted, many of us experienced an enormous amount of déjà vu. It unfortunately seemed to resemble a number of films, the most cited examples being “Delgo” and, plot-wise, “Dances with Wolves.” Of course, the story of a white man infiltrating and welcomed by and ultimately the heroic leader of a race of “others” is now quite classic, and has also been seen earlier in “Lawrence of Arabia” and later in “The Last Samurai.” But Kevin Costner’s Oscar-winning western was the one on most people’s minds even when James Cameron’s 3-D blockbuster opened and went on to gross a bazillion dollars. It’s also worth noting that it was once very common for westerns to be redone as sci-fi flicks. Yet Cameron never seemed to recognize any sort of influence in this regard.

Remake of: “Rear Window”?

Updated versions of and homages to Hitchcock films are hardly a rarity. And oftentimes they’re not officially credited, such as in the cases of “Throw Momma From the Train” and what feels like hundreds of reworkings of “North by Northwest” and “Rear Window.” The latter film was again redone in a not at all veiled way with D.J. Caruso’s “Disturbia,” which modernized and youthenized (that’s a homonym I’m inventing for this sort of thing) the classic mystery about a suspicious voyeur. It was so obvious and specific in being indebted to Hitchcock’s film and the short story that it was based on, that the producers were sued by the owners of the rights to Cornell Woolrich’s source material, “It Had to Be Murder.” The case was recently thrown out, though, because the comparisons were not strong enough to consider “Disturbia” necessarily based on the story.

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